When President George W. Bush launched an invasion of Iraq in
March of 2003, he did so without the explicit approval of the
Security Council. His father's administration, by contrast,
carefully funneled statecraft through the United Nations and
achieved Council authorization for the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991.
The history of American policy toward Iraq displays considerable
variation in the extent to which policies were conducted through
the UN and other international organizations.
In Channels of Power, Alexander Thompson surveys U.S.
policy toward Iraq, starting with the Gulf War, continuing through
the interwar years of sanctions and coercive disarmament, and
concluding with the 2003 invasion and its long aftermath. He offers
a framework for understanding why powerful states often work
through international organizations when conducting coercive
policies-and why they sometimes choose instead to work alone or
with ad hoc coalitions. The conventional wisdom holds that because
having legitimacy for their actions is important for normative
reasons, states seek multilateral approval.
Channels of Power offers a rationalist alternative to
these standard legitimation arguments, one based on the notion of
strategic information transmission: When state actions are endorsed
by an independent organization, this sends politically crucial
information to the world community, both leaders and their publics,
and results in greater international support.
Subjects: Political Science
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